When first-year John Bapst High School girls basketball coach Chris Woodside had his players fill out a questionnaire this summer, one of the points raised by the players was their desire to try an up-tempo pressing style of play.
“We’re deep and we have a lot of talented players so I figured why not give it a shot,” said Woodside. “This would also give me a chance to play a lot of players.”
The Class B North Crusaders from Bangor tried their full-court press out on regional finalist Foxcroft Academy of Dover-Foxcroft last Saturday and they forced 25 turnovers, including 17 in the first half, en route to a 58-42 victory.
“I think we played 10 girls and they all played at least 10 minutes,” said Woodside.
“We have a deep bench and, with our press, we need to get a lot of people in and out. And we’ve been running hard in practice to be able to do this,” said senior guard Crystal Bell, a Bangor Daily News All-Maine Schoolgirl basketball honorable mention a year ago.
“He knows our potential and he works us very hard in practice because he knows we can go all the way,” said senior forward Grace Philippon, who had 19 points and seven steals in the opener.
“I love the intensity he brings to practice,” said Bell.
Woodside has also created a family atmosphere and insists that his players on the bench verbally support their teammates at all times. There is a lot of energy on the John Bapst sidelines which has been missing in the past according to Bell and Philippon.
“I require it. They have to be there for each other at all times. That’s what successful teams do. They support each other all the time. When they come to the bench, I want them thinking what can I do to help somebody else do well,” said Woodside.
Bell, who averaged 18 points a game last year, and Philippon, who also scored in double figures on a regular basis, are the top returning scorers but Woodside is quick to point out that they have plenty of other weapons.
“We have a lot of girls on this team who can score in a variety of different ways,” said Calais native Woodside, who coached the Calais High School boys to a state Class C championship in 2015 before landing an assistant coaching job at Shriner University in Texas and then returning to Maine.
Bell and Philippon are members of a seven-member senior class who want this to be a memorable final season.
“We want to win a state championship. We want to get as close to reaching our full potential as we can,” said Bell.
Besides Bell and Philippon, Caleigh Lebel, Abbey Legasse, Tia Zephir, Emilee Soucie and Brooke Springer will also be concluding their careers at John Bapst.
The Crusaders host Waterville on Friday at 7 at the Cross Insurance Center.